Multiple news outlets have confirmed reports, which emerged last night, of an exchange between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama at last week’s G20 Summit in Cannes, during which Sarkozy called Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu a liar, and Obama appeared to sympathize.
The remarks were made during a private conversation that was overheard by journalists. The exchange wasn’t covered at the time, but was reported by a French website yesterday. A Reuters reporter was among the group who overheard the remarks, and Reuters is now confirming that the conversation took place.
Sarkozy is reported to have told Obama: “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar.” The Reuters story paraphrases Obama’s response, but other reports have him replying: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.”
Unless audio of the exchange emerges we can only speculate on the emphasis Obama employed, but I think we can safely assume that the stresses in the sentence were as follows:
“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.” (The Times adds an exclamation point.)
Obama’s response could be regarded as diplomatic. He did not explicitly agree with Sarkozy’s assertion that Netanyahu is a liar, but he didn’t disagree either. This doesn’t, of course, mean that Obama thinks the Israeli leader is a liar; he may simply have thought that, in the context of what he thought was a private conversation, there was no need to argue the point.
As for the substances of Obama’s reply it’s not particularly controversial: it’s no secret that relations between the President and the Prime Minister are strained to say the least after the Israeli leader put Obama straight about a few facts pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute during his visit to the US in May.